Ten federal court nominations were made today by President Trump. I see three things they all have in common: good-to-great academic credentials, age in their forties, and some palpable connection to the Federalist Society or other right-of-center legal groups. They are:
- Michigan Supreme Court Joan Larsen, 48 years old, nominated to the Sixth Circuit. First in her class from Northwestern Law, also teaches at Michigan Law.
- Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, 42 years old, nominated to the Eighth Circuit. Kansas Law, also holds an MBA from Kansas, taught at the University of Minnesota Law School.
- Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Coney Barrett, 44 years old, nominated to the Seventh Circuit. Former executive editor of Notre Dame Law Review, clerked for Antonin Scalia.
- John Bush, from private practice in Kentucky (Bingham Greenebaum Doll in Louisville) to Sixth Circuit. I can’t determine his age right away, but he’s got a very good resume, including taking his J.D. from Harvard cum laude in 1989 (suggesting that he’s in his late forties).
- Keven Newsom, from private practice (Bradley Arant Boult) to the Eleventh Circuit. Approximately 44 hours old. Formerly served as Solicitor General of Alabama and clerked for David Souter and before that, Diarmuid O’Scannlian, then one of the most “conservative” members of the Ninth Circuit. Harvard Law, magna cum laude, and “one of the country’s best appellate advocates.”
- Damien Schiff, from public interest practice (Pacific Legal Foundation) to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. USD Law, magna cum laude, clerking experience at the Court of Federal Claims. Age not readily determinable but again appears to be in his 40’s.
- Dabney Freidrich. Formerly served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, as Associate White House Counsel in the George W. Bush Administration and counsel to Orrin Hatch. Also served as a federal prosecutor for seven years. Took a law degree from Oxford before getting his J.D. at Yale. As for his age, I can tell that he took his undergraduate degree in 1988.
- U.S Magistrate Judge Terry Morrer, nominated to District Judge in the Middle District of Alabama, where he currently serves as Magistrate Judge. J.D. from University of Alabama Law School, made Colonel in the Alabama National Guard, which saw him deploy to Iraq and Kuwait as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom (where he severed as a Judge Advocate and earned a Bronze Star). He may be the oldest nominee today; he took an associate’s degree from an Alabama military institute in 1981.
- Judge David Nye, Judge of the Sixth Judicial District of Idaho, nominated to the District of Idaho. Judge Nye was nominated to this Court by President Obama, but didn’t receive a vote. J.D. from the J. Reuben Clark Law School, associated with BYU, in 1986. He had 20 years in private practice doing mostly insurance defense and medical malpractice.
- University of Oklahoma Law School, Assistant Dean of Students Scott Palk, nominated to the Western District of Oklahoma. Nineteen year career as a prosecutor at both the state and federal level; as an AUSA helped handle and draft policy for a variety of national security issues. Took his J.D. from University of Oklahoma in 1992.
It seemed to me during the campaign that if elected, Donald Trump would have basically outsourced judicial nominations to the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, but the quibble there would be with lawyers who align left of center not liking the likely ideological bent of those nominees. There’s little reason to quibble any of these nominees’ academic or professional credentials, however: these are all reasonably credible backgrounds from which judges might be selected.
There are still over 100 empty seats throughout the Federal judiciary. This, however, is a decent step towards filling them.